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Editorial Reviews

A 60-year-old rural Ethiopian villager seeking a second wife purchases 13-year-old Mahabouba for $10. Seven months pregnant by age 14, she flees savage whippings at home, running away to give birth alone. Labor lasts seven days. Mahabouba loses her baby, her pelvis rots; she can't control her bowels or bladder; she can't even walk or stand. Hyenas circle, lured by her blood. Then, Mahabouba, who is profoundly brave, crawls to a missionary one town over, inching forward on her arms. She lands at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and recovers there, at "puddle city", as the devoted, progressive staff fondly jokes, since patients drip urine all day long (floors are mopped many times hourly).
Pulitzer Prize-winning husband and wife journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn root out the barbaric injustices brutalizing Mahaboubas all across developing nations in Half the Sky, a magnificent, roaring abolitionists' plea to shoulder the burden of female oppression by empowering our fellow humankind. "This is a story of transformation," they urge.
Wife abuse; fistulas; sex slavery; honor killings; female genital mutilation (vaginal openings are sewn up with a wild thistle); illiteracy; sex-selective abortion; starvation; AIDS; and the epidemic of rape are among the hard, heavy contents of this book. Yet Half the Sky, as navigated by Kristof and WuDunn, transcends its narrative of despair with vivid, descriptive language and by balancing meticulous gumshoe reporting with intimate profiles in gender inequality. "What You Can Do" is the book's uplifting final chapter, ticking off immediate ways for listeners to connect with women in need.
Cassandra Campbell — whose low pitch and measured pacing lend dignity to the mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters whose horrors she's voicing — masterfully narrates Half the Sky. Campbell is a journalistic narrator, too much a pro to nuance her reading with shock or hysterical outrage. This restraint is most appreciated during exceptionally anguished confidences, as when Zoya Najabi of Kabul reveals her mother-in-law once shredded the soles of her feet with a stick "until they were like yogurt". —Nita Rao
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Publisher's Summary

Two Pulitzer Prize winners expose the most pervasive human-rights violation of our era - the oppression of women in the developing world - and tell us what we can do about it. An old Chinese proverb says, "Women hold up half the sky." Then why do the women of Africa and Asia persistently suffer human rights abuses?
Continuing their focus on humanitarian issues, journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take us to Africa and Asia, where many women live in profoundly dire circumstances....and some succeed against all odds.
A Cambodian teenager is sold into sex slavery; a formerly illiterate woman becomes a surgeon in Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian woman is left for dead after a difficult birth; a gang rape victim galvanizes the international community and creates schools in Pakistan. An Afghan wife is beaten by her husband and mother-in-law; a former Peace Corps volunteer founds an organization that educates and campaigns for women's rights in Senegal.
Through their powerful true stories, the authors show that the key to progress lies in unleashing women's potential, that change is possible, and that each of us can play a role in making it happen.
©2009 Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (P)2009 HighBridge Company
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Critic Reviews

"If you have always wondered whether you can change the world, read this book. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have written a brilliant call to arms that describes one of the transcendent injustices in the world today." (Fareed Zakaria, author, The Post-American World)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Nancy Smyth on 08-21-11

This unabridged book is abridged

The book itself is excellent, although very intense. Eye-opening about the extent of violence against women and girls, and inspiring in terms of the stories of people who have challenged the status quo and brought about important changes.

However, be aware that this unabridged book is abridged in some places. I was reading along in my Kindle version, while listening, only to discover that a section of text was left out. At the end of Chapter 4, the print version has this text included in the last paragraph, but it is eliminated from the Audible version: "In 2009, Mukhtar married a policeman who had long pleaded for her hand. She became his second wife, making Mukhtar an odd emblem of women's rights, but the marriage proceeded only after the first wife convinced Mukhtar that this was what she genuinely wanted. It was another unusual chapter in an unusual life."

I haven't been comparing the print and Audible versions systematically, but now I'm wondering what else was eliminated (censored?). If the book were listed as abridged, I would have no problem with text being left out. But the fact it's identified as unabridged and then eliminates text makes me angry and mistrustful of other Audible books. Add to this the fact that the text that was eliminated contains content that would be uncomfortable to many Western, Christian sensibilities and I get even more angry. Is someone censoring Audible's books?

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75 of 77 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Ella on 10-21-09

"Women hold up half the sky"

Women are the most under utilized resource in third world countries. By bringing you personally into each of the girl's lives, and describing in great detail each story as it unravels, you become entwined in their circumstance. You wonder if each one lives, dies or prospers through their terrifying story. Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn bring the plight of injustice and brutality of women in third world countries to your heart and mind through first hand experiences. You will read about sex trade and how the men who run the brothels keep the girls addicted to drugs, about gang rapes which often end up in mutilation, causing fistulas where feces and urine can no longer be contained, about lack of health facilities, birth control and education. You will read about violence and abuse of wives, not only by their misogynistic husbands, but also by their mothers in law, and you will understand what FGM is (female genital mutilation or "cutting").

This is not an easy book to get through, it is hard and real life, but not without at least giving you some hope to help. What I took away from this, is even I can make a difference. The authors explain in detail about micro financing and how you can loan small amounts of money, which will empower women to rise above their situations. They give examples of organizations who pair you up with real people so you can see first hand your positive results. Through Organizations like Kiva, Women for Women Int., Heifer Int., Girls Learning Int., American Jewish World Service and many others, you can actually make a difference in someone's life. When I was finished, I couldn't wait to do my part. In summary, although this book is enlightening, it is also preachy, but without bringing these stories into your soul, and tugging at your conscience and heart strings there would be no change in the world....change that is so badly needed.

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19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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